Can good corporate governance lead to positive societal impact?

PhD student Dominika Wiesner

PhD student Dominika Wiesner was recently named a Bertram Scholar for her research in highlighting the importance of effective boards in enabling good decision-making and improved functioning of public & private institutions. Her research also looked at  the role of corporate governance in enabling positive societal impacts through a Canadian lens. 
Bertram Scholarships are one of The Canadian Foundation for Governance Research most prestigious awards, given to PhD students who are conducting research into organizational governance .
Learn more about Dominika’s research. 
Can you tell us a little about your doctoral research on organizational governance? 
Imagine that every year, you had to write a report on your environmental and social performance and post it on a social media website. Do you think this new requirement would cause you to change your habits? Would you try to live more sustainably? In some jurisdictions, large business corporations are required to file such reports. My research focuses on these so-called “non-financial” corporate reporting requirements, which include reports on human rights and environmental impacts. I look at them as both an innovative corporate governance strategy and as a policy tool for self-regulation by using a law and economics approach to examine their potential and limitations. So far, I have found that these reporting requirements could lead to incremental change and serve as a stepping stone to more sustainable social and legal norms. I also look into instruments that could strengthen the effect of non-financial reporting, such as whistleblower programs.
What inspired you to pursue this research?  
While working in business law, I developed an interest for the legal and social context of corporate decision-making. I’m passionate about this research area because I think it is an important puzzle piece in addressing the complex challenges associated with our necessary transition to sustainability. I was intrigued (and also a bit skeptical) when I learned that the European Union was planning to introduce non-financial reporting requirements and wanted to learn more about their potential to contribute to  the establishment of increasingly sustainable business practices. 
What are your long-term research goals? 
I hope that my findings can assist corporate decision-makers and policymakers in providing stakeholders with relevant information on sustainability issues. In particular, my research will identify the degree to which Canadian corporations must already report on sustainability-related matters and if comprehensive non-financial reporting requirements can address systemic reporting gaps in the Canadian context. I’m very grateful to the Canadian Foundation for Governance Research for their support and the opportunity to discuss my research with corporate directors.
Do you have any advice for any current and/or prospective JD & PhD students? 
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your colleagues. I’ve found that most people are genuinely happy to help if you are respectful of their time. Law is often viewed as a highly competitive discipline, however, law schools attract an array of interesting people from all backgrounds and you can learn so much through collaboration. I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced a great sense of community here and am proud to be a part of it. 
Dominika is currently in her third year as a PhD student. After she completes her doctorate, she plans to continue her research in corporate governance and sustainability and would like to pursue a career in academia.